Not too long ago, if someone wanted to research something, they most likely needed to go to a library, read many books almost from cover to cover in order to find the need information and spend a lot of time gathering all the elements necessary for a project.

It’s a lot easier today with it being no longer necessary to physically go to a place where information is stored. A smartphone and internet connection make it possible for information to be accessed anywhere and at any time. Projects these days differ a lot from those that were produced ‘back in the day’ by the fact that media is a lot more present in them, making everything a lot easier to follow and more entertaining.

For instructional designers this is wonderful since learning content needs to be attractive and modern. There is a real bounty of images, videos and infographics on the internet yet this richness comes with the constant worry that they may be protected by copyright. Creative Commons is a tool that is designed to shed some light on the free, ready to use stuff that is out on the web.

What instructional designers should know about Creative Commons

Creative Commons was created to help all those who create content, whether they are writers, video makers or designers, to use already existing content without having to pay for it. Everything from text to video or sound can be used while being appropriately attributed.

It’s not necessary to get permission or pay in order to use CC which makes it all the easier. All the included items are under the incidence of copyright law but authors can choose in what way their work can be used – there are different types of licenses to pick from.

The types of licenses are:

  • Attribution (CC BY): This license allows you to distribute, modify and build upon an existing work, even for commercial purposes as long as you mention the original source.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC): This license allows you to distribute, modify and build upon a created work for non-commercial use only as long as the original source is credited. Works that only use it as a starting point do not have to be licensed in the same way the source material was.
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND): This license allows for the distribution of a work, both for commercial and non-commercial purposes, as long as the created item is used with no modifications in the exact format it was created by its initial author.
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA): This license allows others to distribute, modify and build upon an existing work, even for commercial purposes, as long as the original source is credited and all derivative items carry the same license and terms of use of the original.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA): This license allows others to distribute, alter and build upon a created work, but not commercially, as long as the original source is credited. Unlike the CC BY-SA license, derivative works do not have to be licensed with the same terms of use as the original.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND): This license is the most restrictive of the Creative Commons options and only allows for the use of works in a shared manner. The user is obligated to credit the original source and isn’t allowed to change or distribute them for commercial purposes.

The Creative Commons database is very large. Even though photos are probably among the most popular searches, text, video and audio items are also readily available. Usually a simple search using your internet browser brings pages upon pages of great results.

However, it’s rather difficult to find items that you can be sure carry no copyright and what starts off seeming awfully easy, turns into a very frustrating and time consuming operation. Just when you think you have found the perfect piece of media to spice up your content, it turns out it’s a blur whether you can actually use in and under what terms. So Creative Commons proves to be the fastest, safest route to appropriately credited, free content to be shared in your projects.

What’s even better is that in turn, you can license your own work under the Creative Commons umbrella, thus gaining more visibility and ensuring what you created will be always credited to you. The process is very simple, you simply use the Creative Commons licensing icons and apply for a specific license type online. Once your work is licensed, you can even share it with others that are using Creative Commons. Some portfolio tools (Behance for example) offer you the option to include this type of licensing information with your work.

It’s true that the best things in life are free but the best media usually is not. In the best case, it only cares attribution obligations and you can find it via Creative Commons.

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